Yesterday during @WestpointChurch‘s gathering, the teaching time continued to focus in on Matthew 5 to 7 in the series “on earth as it is in HEAVEN.” The Scripture we studied together was Matthew 6:5–13. “How to pray.”
To begin with, I asked the question, “Why do we pray?” Is it just a religious habit? Is it just a ritualistic discipline? It must be more than that, or Paul would not have called us to do it without ceasing, without striving. To pray at all times, maybe it needs to be to us more like something else we do all the time, without laborious thought, without which we would die. Breathing. Prayer must be as breathing.
And why do we pray? Because we need life. It leads us to the most foundational question of all of life: WHO MADE YOU? It simply makes sense to look to the One who made me for directions for living at optimum function. At abundant life. I would not call the Hoover hotline with questions on how to operate my Dyson Vacuum Cleaner. Why would I look anywhere else for life than the One who made me? And so, I pray. I talk with, listen to, and respond to the One who made me. As though I am breathing Him in and out, for life. Abundant life.
In Matthew 6, Jesus was continuing His teaching about the righteous living God intended. Not self-righteous. Not self-indulgent. But rightly connected to the Kingdom purposes of love coming near, on earth as it is in heaven. And Jesus takes a moment to give instructions on praying.
First, He communicates how not to pray:
- Do not pray to impress (verse 5 and 6).
- Do not pray to cut a deal (verse 7).
- Do not pray like you are going to give God a new idea (verse 8).
Then, He offers a prayer to demonstrate how to pray. Not just some religious offering intended for us to repeat effortlessly and ritualistically. But rather, a demonstration of how we should approach God. Better said, how He so desires for us to approach Him. He came near to us. He longs for us to draw near to Him. We must. Like breathing. Or our righteous attempts are empty and hollow and pretentious, like the hypocrites – just a show. And if our desire is to be regarded as someone who prays, then we can have that desire, that reward, easy.
So, what does Jesus say? How to pray? Here are my thoughts on it:
- Pray in awe of a hallowed (holy) God, that He let’s you pray to Him (verse 9).
- Pray for the heavenly ways of that hallowed God to show up here and now in and through your life, which means you probably will have to change (verse 10).
- Pray like God is your supply, not you (verse 11).
- Pray begging God to help you give the same love and forgiveness to everyone, as it has so freely been given to you (verse 12).
- Pray like He is Lord of your life, and surrender your desire to be in control.
THE BOTTOM LINE_If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life (adapted from P. Miller). If your motivation for praying is to be hallowed (like God) by other men, then you are arrogantly stealing praise that is not yours. You therefore will have all the reward you are gonna get (“your reward in full.”). If your motivation for praying is to know God and to make His ways known right here and now in all the ways of your life, then we will see “on earth as it is in heaven.”
May we pray in this way:
9 Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10 Set the world right; Do what’s best—as above, so below. 11 Keep us alive with three square meals. 12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. (the Message)